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College of Arts and Sciences

Alumna cares for, encourages her cancer patients

Sarah Brendle knows how important it is to be a light in the lives of her patients who are dealing with cancer. Growing up as one of seven siblings prepared her well for her current role of helping patients live the best quality of life possible. Choosing Anderson University was simple. Sarah felt Anderson was a good fit to prepare her for her healthcare career. Being close to family was also a huge factor in Sarah’s decision. Anderson University is a family thing—her mom is an alum, and among her siblings are those who have attended and two current students!

How did you become interested in healthcare?

Being the oldest of seven kids is one of the main reasons I was drawn to healthcare. I’ve always kind of been a second mama, a helper to my parents. Growing up I knew I liked science and had thought about medicine and felt that calling for my future. When I was in high school I heard about the PA (Physician’s Assistant) profession and started pursuing it. I knew as I went into college at Anderson that I needed to start with a biology undergrad and also start pursuing PA school. The Lord opened doors, and AU was a great place to prepare me for the next steps.

How did you decide to enroll at Anderson University? 

My mom went there when it was a junior college. She always talked about how she loved AU. She talked about how she had more fun at AU… and just loved it and wished she could have stayed all four years but that wasn’t possible then. So then when it was time for me to go to school I knew, having six younger siblings, I didn’t really want to go anywhere far from home. I grew up in Anderson and wanted to stay close. 

When I applied to Anderson I just felt it was right. Being close to my parents and siblings was very important to me. My youngest sibling was two years old when I started at Anderson. During my four years at Anderson I was able to live on campus but still be so close to home. 

Describe your transition to PA school and how Anderson prepared you for that.

I had a year gap between undergrad and PA school. This was mainly because of all the prerequisite work that it takes to get accepted into PA school. I started the process during my earlier college years, but I remember being a junior and senior and knowing I wanted to finish Anderson well and not necessarily let any of that suffer as I was preparing for the next phase. As a PA you need a lot of patient experience hours, more than just shadowing. I needed to work somewhere where I could get those patient contact hours and it’s hard to accomplish all of that while in undergrad. So I did that over the gap year. I also worked back at AU as an assistant lab manager. I helped set up labs for introductory biology and other science classes. I basically helped Dr. Koenigstein and Jim Dancik do lab work prep and anything they specifically needed help doing. I also had to take one extra class that PA school required that I wasn’t able to take at AU. Different PA schools sometimes require different prerequisites and I needed a higher level psychology class. Also to answer more about preparing, I definitely think my classes at AU prepared for me PA school and also specifically Dr. Koenigstein. From the beginning she was a big proponent of helping me get to the next step. 

What were some favorite things to do?

Being a biology major we studied a lot; I definitely enjoyed studying in groups. We would sit in the coffee shop (currently Books & Beans) underneath the library and stay for as long as they’d let us stay, sometimes into the early morning hours. I also really enjoyed being at a small school and knowing most of the people or at least recognizing familiar faces. I really did enjoy being on campus and the friends I made there. I also did RUF (Reformed University Fellowship), so that was a big part of my time.

You’re one of seven siblings. Were any of them students at Anderson the same time as you?

Yes, my brother Seth, he is two years younger than me. He was a freshman and sophomore when I was junior and senior. He is actually the only one who went to AU and transferred to (another university) where he graduated. All my other siblings have either graduated or will graduate from AU. 

Let’s talk about how you entered the field when you finished PA school.

I graduated from PA school in December 2013. When you’re doing your last year of PA school you do rotations with different PAs or doctors. I was in up in Virginia for PA school, but ultimately I knew I wanted to come back to Anderson to work because that’s where my roots are and my family are. I was able to do my last few rotations here in Anderson. The last rotation before graduation I worked with Angela Reeves, Nurse Practitioner at Primary Care Associates and she was the one who introduced me to my boss, Dr. John Doster, at the Anderson Area Cancer Center. I had an interest in hematology and oncology after doing a prior rotation in pediatric hematology and oncology and at the same time my grandfather passed away of cancer with T-cell lymphoma. I experienced the provider and family side of cancer at the same time and it stirred in me a desire to specifically pursue hematology and oncology. Anyway, Angela Reeves introduced me to my boss, Dr. Doster, and he hired me immediately and I remember him saying ‘please don’t go work anywhere else.’ Long story short, I almost went to work for the ER here in Anderson. So I’ve been here now almost 10 years and love it.

I understand you’ve had some AU students shadow you?

That’s been a really fun experience for me. Dr. Koenigstein has sent probably 8-10 students to shadow me over the years. She picks and chooses students that she feels are a good fit to work with me and really have a strong calling to specifically be a PA. It’s been rewarding to spend time with them during their college years and hear their desires and life goals and why they want to be a PA. They are college students who are where I was not long ago and spending a little time with them and then being able to follow them on their journey from afar as they actually get into school, graduate and then start their careers has been enjoyable. I feel proud of them. 

That probably gives you a sense of accomplishment, right?

Not that I really did anything, but I just got to watch it and try to encourage them along the way and be really honest about what the process looks like. Dr. Koenigstein really does a great job at prepping them before they even get to me. One day I may have lots of PA colleagues out there that spent a little time with me while they were in college.  

What’s the best part of your job?

It is very rewarding. It’s definitely a ministry because I get to see people when they’ve really heard the worst news they could get. Cancer is up there for something you never want to hear. I get to talk to a lot of people at their worst and their most vulnerable. I get to come alongside them and try to encourage them or even just give them something simple like a medicine for nausea and vomiting. I get to use my experience and the gifts and talents the Lord has given me to love them in whatever way I can when they are at their most vulnerable. Working in oncology, you get to see people a lot because they’re in a lot for their chemotherapy treatment or they’re just having close follow up, and so I get to really take care of people and really love them. As a Christian, I really feel that it is not just a job but a ministry and so I try to use it as a way to tell patients about the Lord. I know that is why the Lord has me in this role. I definitely don’t always do it perfectly, but it definitely is rewarding getting to be with sweet patients in those hard times and point them to the Lord.  

In a lot of other jobs, there’s not really opportunities for that. Even if people are not a Christian or hesitant to talk about the Lord because they are in such a vulnerable state, they are usually willing and ready to listen to me and let me pray for them and encourage them. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to become a PA?

I think there are lots of things. I try to encourage people who come and talk to me and are considering next steps to really think about why they want to do it. You want to know your purpose in becoming a PA and not just doing it because you’ve heard it’s a great job. You want to know that you feel that it’s a calling the Lord has for you. Also, PA school is very hard to get into. PA programs really want to see that and know what makes you different and why you would be a great PA. That’s one aspect I encourage future PA students to really think about. And in the time before PA school, learn all you can and ask questions. Sometimes I look back and I’m like ‘why didn’t I ask more questions?’ When you’re a student, that’s the time when you can ask these questions. Learn all you can. Those are just some things I encourage from an academic standpoint.

Tell me about your family.

I’m the oldest of seven. The youngest, Silas Brendle, is 19 and is currently a junior at AU studying digital communications. He does a lot for AU including being the main social media guy for the Men’s Basketball Team. The next youngest is Susanna Brendle. She is a senior at AU and is a business marketing major. 

Right under me is my brother Seth Brendle, who went to AU for 2 years then transferred to (another university). He is a PA as well, living in Atlanta working for the ER at Emory Hospital. Third in line is my sister, Sophie Lindler. She majored in graphic design at AU and has a really well-known photography business now. She’s so very talented. She took a photography class during her time at AU that really helped spark her business. She’s married to Cameron Lindler, who went to AU as well and currently works as a PA in orthopedic spine surgery in Spartanburg/Greenville. Fourth in line is my brother, Samuel Brendle. He graduated as a kinesiology major in 2020 and he actually just started working at AU as the strength and conditioning coach for the football team. Next there is my sister, Sadie Brendle. She graduated in Kinesiology in 2022 and is currently working in Murrells Inlet as a director for the Chick-fil-A there.

You and your siblings were homeschooled. Tell us about that. 

My parents have felt that homeschooling was the best option for our family. They took it year by year and child by child to make that decision. Long story short, the oldest three siblings, including myself, were homeschooled all the way from kindergarten to high school graduation. The next four went to private school for a few years but still homeschooled the majority of the time. Silas, my baby brother, finished up his last three years at T.L. Hanna (High School). Needless to say we were all homeschooled for the majority of our schooling and wouldn’t have had it any other way. It isn’t always right for every family but for us it has been very rewarding. 

And your mom Terrie is an AU alum as well, right?

Yes. She did her first two years at Anderson and then at (another university) with a degree in secondary math education. She worked as a homemaker and homeschooling us, but she’s always tutored math, mainly middle school and high school math within the home. So tons of students for as long as I can remember have come to our home for an hour every week or so. 

What was it like transitioning from homeschooling to Anderson University?

One thing that helped with that is we all did dual enrollment at Tri County technical college, during our junior year and senior year. We did general education classes that counted for high school and went towards college credit as well. I would say that prepared us a little bit more for some of the classes and also doing co-op within the Anderson homeschool group. I wouldn’t say there was an awkward transition at all.

Sarah Brendle
Sarah Brendle
Graduated from Anderson University: 2010
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Biology, minor in Chemistry
Title: Physician’s Assistant at Anderson Area Cancer Center